The Plano ISD board of trustees discussed an update on the athletic alignment program during its Jan. 10 meeting, including discussions on classwide branding for matching mascots, names and colors.

According to PISD Athletic Director Jeff Smith, the athletic alignment initiative began in 2018-19. A needs assessment identified small athletic teams, player development and scheduling with other school districts as some of the issues to address.

“[2018-19] is when we began to see some shortcomings and some problems arise in our alignment,” Smith said.

To combat these issues, the district implemented alignment measures, one of which being the JV2 initiative, which allowed 10th-grade students to compete on their own football, volleyball and basketball teams rather than splitting them up between the ninth- and 12th-grade teams. Smith said the results were “incredibly successful.”

“The coaches had more connection with their kids; the development was better,” Smith said. “All those areas that I told you we were struggling with were better.”

Building on this success, Smith said the long-term goal of the athletic alignment program is to have the high schools match the senior high schools.

For example, Plano Senior High identifies as the Wildcats, while Clark High School and Vines High School are the Cougars and Vikings, respectively. The alignment program would make it so that all three of these schools are matching in mascot and color.

The result, Smith said, is a stronger bond between the kids and the community.

“Let’s line them up; that way we're all one family,” Smith said. “We’re all one brand. We’re all one group. There’s unity in that. There’s cohesion in that, and I think there’s a lot of spirit and pride in that.”

During the meeting, board President David Stolle pointed to Southlake Carroll High School as an example of good alignment.

“From kindergarten to 12th grade, they’re all Dragons,” Stolle said. “And you can look at the athletic success that those kids have when they dream as a kindergartener of being a Dragon, and that’s all they want to be.”

Stolle also pointed to his own personal experiences growing up in Plano to explain the importance of aligning the schools.

“When I was a second grader watching my brother play for the Plano Wildcats, I wanted to be a Plano Wildcat,” Stolle said. “That is all I wanted to be. That’s the functionality of being in a single-school town. We are not that anymore. However, we have a structure set up to where we can create single-school identities for all three of our senior highs.”

According to Smith, the purpose of the alignment program is to strengthen student and parent engagement, school spirit, teamwork, cohesion and unity in each school.

“What’s our purpose? It’s very simple. It’s about the kids,” Smith said. “This is bigger than athletics. It’s about the brand. It’s about aligning everything and being on a team, being one family, one heartbeat.”

So far, insight meetings on the athletic alignment program have been held with the communications team, facilities and finance teams, and booster club parents.

The future of the alignment program is dependent on feedback from parents and stakeholders in the community. A survey on the program will be posted on the PISD website from Jan. 12-26.

A summary of the survey will be provided to the board at the Feb. 7 meeting.